The Test that never was Part 2

UK Prime Minister James Callaghan and Commonwealth leaders at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland in 1977 (Commonwealth photo)

In this week’s edition of In Search of West Indies Cricket, Roger Seymour continues his initial look at the controversial subject of apartheid and cricket.

Robin Jackman having been declared persona non grata in Guyana while on tour here with the England team, the matter was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions (weekly press conference of UK’s PM), on February 26, 1981. Here’s a copy of the Briefing Paper prepared for then PM Margaret Thatcher.

“ENGLAND CRICKET TOUR TO THE WEST INDIES

POINTS TO MAKE

 

 HMG’s attitude

  1. The government [is] naturally very concerned that there should be any unpleasantness over the English Cricket tour of the West Indies. We support most strongly the right of the English selectors, or any other of our governing bodies of sport, to select their own teams without interference. We believe there must be some misunderstanding in the West Indies over the terms of the Commonwealth Statement as it relates to cases like that of Robin Jackman. I understand that ministers there may be having second thoughts and we must hope that diplomacy and good sense prevail.

Gleneagles Agreement

  1. As I and my colleagues have repeatedly said, the government abides by the Gleneagles Agreement. The most recent example has been the letter addressed by My Honourable Friend, the Minister for Sport, to the Irish Rugby Football Union, asking them not to send a team to play in South Africa later this year.
  2. In our view the Gleneagles Agreement is not relevant to the situation in Guyana since it makes no reference to action by one government against nationals of another.
UK Prime Minister James Callaghan and Commonwealth leaders at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland in 1977 (Commonwealth photo)
UK Prime Minister James Callaghan and Commonwealth leaders at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland in 1977 (Commonwealth photo)

Additional action by some other countries

  1. Other countries are free to determine their own policies. I understand that the Government of Guyana has for some time adopted a policy that individuals who have played in South Africa are not permitted to play in Guyana. Guyana is not alone in taking that view. Honourable Friends may recall that recently British tennis players have not been allowed to play in Nigeria and Kenya because they had recently played in South Africa.

Cancellation of matches

  1. It is for the cricketing authorities to decide whether or not they can accept a ban against a particular individual playing for England.”

When British High Commissioner Phillip Mallet met Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson that afternoon, he informed him that declaring Jackman a prohibited immigrant on the grounds of his South African contacts, might lead to the departure of the entire English team and the cancellation of the Test.

In the meanwhile, the 2nd ODI was in progress. England were restricted to 137 runs in 47.2 overs. Gatting (29), Botham (27) and Willey (21), were the leading scorers. Croft, 3 for 9 and Larry Gomes, 3 for 30 had done the damage. After a shaky start, of 11 for 2, Haynes and Mattis added 74 for the 3rd wicket, as WI cruised to 138 for 4 in 39.3 overs, to sweep the ODI Series. Jackman had not been selected in the England XI.

Soon after the teams had returned to the Pegasus Hotel, a uniformed official arrived and served Jackman with the following notice:

“REVOCATION OF PERMIT

Under Section 21 (4B) of Immigration Act (Cap:14.02)

Take Notice that on the direction of the President the permit granted to you on the 23rd Feb 1981 to enter and remain in Guyana for a period of two weeks is hereby revoked with immediate effect.

(Signed) J. Thorne, Deputy Supt, Immigration”

Friday, February 27, 1981 newspaper headlines: GUYANA TEST CANCELLED, Jackman’s visa is revoked

“The Second Test cricket match in Guyana scheduled to begin tomorrow at the Georgetown Cricket Club ground, Bourda has been cancelled…” There was a statement from the English Cricket Council from which the following excerpt is taken:

“The English Cricket Council has informed the Manager of the English touring team that as Robin Jackman has been asked to leave Guyana it is no longer possible for the Test team to be chosen without restrictions being imposed.

“It is therefore with deep regret that England cannot take part in the second Test due to start on Saturday.”

In correspondence to the Foreign Office, High Commissioner Mallet opined, “We must hope that the Guyanese can get off the hook on which they have impaled themselves.” He proposed emphasising the multiracial nature of the Test Match, noting the inclusion of Roland Butcher, England’s first black player.

The English team departed Guyana on Friday for Barbados, the next scheduled leg of the tour which now hung in the balance.

The main bone of contention here was the interpretation of the Gleneagles Agreement. What was the Gleneagles Agreement? Let us back up a bit. South Africa had departed from the Commonwealth in 1961, and the subject of apartheid and sport was never far from the surface. South Africa had been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1963 and subsequently expelled in 1970, the same year in which all cricket relations with South Africa were severed. In 1971, the Commonwealth had expressed opposition to apartheid, by issuing the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, which for the most part, remained rhetoric.  In 1976, the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team with the government’s endorsement, embarked on a tour of South Africa as the Soweto uprising by black school students was in progress. Scores of students were injured and killed. Twenty-eight African nations, Iraq and Guyana, in the immediate response, announced a boycott of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.

The first week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in June 1977, at Lancaster House, London, England, had been a rather quiet and low-key gathering. The leaders, afterwards escaped to the Gleneagles Hotel, in the Highlands of Perthshire, Scotland, for their informal weekend retreat. Ramphal was determined that the Commonwealth should transform its rhetoric on apartheid into practical action, especially with regard to sporting contact. Whilst the majority of dignitaries relaxed or played golf, Ramphal was busy with his “first excursion into quiet diplomacy.” He assembled a small group of leaders, including New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, under the leadership of Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, to find a solution to this potential powder-keg. Two significant concessions were made. Firstly, the agreement drew “a curtain across the past” and secondly, past understandings and difficulties would be explained by “inadequate inter-governmental consultations.” The draft reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s position on racism and apartheid in sport and urged its leaders to take “every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals,” with those who practice apartheid. It acknowledged that each government retained the right to implement the agreement in accordance with their own country’s laws, and hoped that this would lead to no sporting contact “of any significance” with South Africa. By evening, the draft had been circulated to all the other Heads of Government. The next day, Monday June 13, 1977, the Gleneagles Agreement was ratified in formal session.

The following stops were left on the tour: Barbados – First Class Match against Barbados and the Third Test Match; Montserrat – First Class Game vs Leeward Islands; Antigua – Fourth Test Match; Jamaica – First Class Match vs Jamaica and the Fifth Test Match.

England were very anxious to continue the series, as their wives were scheduled to join the tour in Barbados, for two weeks. The foreign ministers of Barbados, Antigua and Jamaica, along with the Chief Minister of Montserrat agreed to convene a meeting in Barbados, on March 3, to reach a decision on the rest of the tour.

Meanwhile, the Board of Cricket Control of Pakistan offered to send a team for a Three-Test Series, should the English side withdraw from the tour. The meeting lasted until March 4, and the four governments issued a lengthy, joint communique, bulging at the seams with political mumbo jumbo, which agreed that the tour should

continue. Here are the first two paragraphs from that release:

“The governments of Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica and Montserrat have consulted about the current tour of the West Indies by the English Cricket Team which includes players who have played cricket in South Africa since the Gleneagles Agreement of June 1977.

“In considering the matter the representatives of the governments concerned have been guided not only by that Agreement which was drawn up by Commonwealth Heads of Government but also by the United Nations Declaration against Apartheid in Sports adopted in December 1977.”

According to the joint communique, the ‘Third Party Principle ‘—that of individuals acting alone—of the accord of Gleneagles was of “great complexity.”

The United Nations Declaration, had been adopted without a dissenting vote, 128-0, with 12 abstentions.

The foreign ministers also probably consulted the list released by the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) in October, 1980, which included all the sports men and women who had visited South Africa. The list had been compiled by scouring South African newspapers and listening to broadcasts of sports events within South Africa. This list would form the basis of the United Nations Register of Sports Contact with South Africa, first released in May 1981, and popularly known as ‘the UN Blacklist’.

Let’s consider the four territories’ positions on an individual basis. Montserrat was, and still is, a British Overseas Territory, and as such, probably had no other choice but to support the English Team. Antigua and its two favourite sons, Andy Roberts and Viv Richards, were scheduled to host their first Test Match ever. Does anyone think that they were going to pass up this opportunity? Barbados, or Little England, as it is affectionately known, was and still is heavily dependent on the British and European tourist market, as were Antigua and Jamaica. Point to note, Michael Manley, one of the architects of the Gleneagles Agreement, had been voted out of Office, in November 1980. There was no way Edward Seaga, the new Prime Minister and Manley’s bitter rival, was going to endorse anything that would have put a feather in Manley’s cap. The question here is, if Manley was still in power, would he have supported his good friend and comrade, Forbes Burnham, then President of Guyana?

After England departed Guyana, there was a debate among the sport writers covering the tour, as to whether the Wisden would record the Test as cancelled or abandoned. The statisticians’ record states: The Second Test was cancelled after the Guyana Government withdrew R D Jackman’s visitors’ permit and served him with a deportation order.

Guyana’s voice on apartheid and South Africa was well known and respected in international fora. The boycott of the Montreal Olympics came at a great cost. The Guyana delegation had actually participated in the opening ceremony before the withdrawal. It was arguably the country’s best team ever and included medal hopefuls James Wren-Gilkes (100 metres & 200 metres sprinter) and Eon D’Ornellas (cyclist). Now a Test Match had been cancelled for the first time ever in the West Indies.

There are still loose ends and unanswered questions. In the second line of the four governments’ communique, it notes “includes players who have played in South Africa since the Gleneagles Agreement.” As many as eight players were reported to have played in South Africa after June 1977. This writer’s research only unearthed one name – David Bairstow. Why was Jackman singled out? Antiguan left-wing activist Tim Hector accused the Guyana Government of grandstanding on the issue. “Wasn’t Robin Jackman married to a South African and as an individual had a universal right to travel there?” he queried.

Had the government been needled into action on a subject on which it had intended to look the other way by its adversary, the Caribbean News Agency?

The subject of apartheid always leaves a bitter taste.

Trivia Question: Who scored the First Test Century at the Antigua Recreation Ground? (Note – there were three centuries in the Test Match)

Footnote: Robin Jackman made his Test Debut in the Barbados Test Match, which was won by the West Indies, who went on to win the Series, 2-0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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